Who has not had to deal with endless hours in the emergency room or wait weeks before seeing a doctor? This tricky issue is the one Doctr decided to tackle: improve the efficiency of the Quebec health system to help patients get more speedy access to care.
This story began in 2014 when Stephane Boyer and Quentin Gay met with the common dream to start a business. But the pair weren’t looking to start just any business. They knew they wanted to work on something they were passionate about and which would allow them to have a positive impact on society.
As luck would have it, the two entrepreneurs stumbled upon data regarding emergency room occupancy rates in Quebec. Realizing the data existed but was not used optimally to the benefit of patients proved to be a light bulb moment for Stéphane and Quentin. As it is the case with most people in the province, both had bad experiences with the health network in Quebec. While we have the opportunity of a universal system and quality care, the fact remains that access to the health care system is still problematic.
Running with this idea, Stéphane and Quentin partnered up with three other entrepreneurs to embark on the adventure. After several months of working evenings and weekends outside of their 9-5 jobs, the Doctr app came to life in the summer of 2015. Stéphane admits that initially, their data was not perfect, as they lacked data on emergency room traffic in certain hospitals and data was not always updated as frequently as they would wish. The mobile app launch attracted a lot of interest from local media, including Radio-Canada, Le Devoir and Le Journal Metro, as well as from patients, as the free app was downloaded nearly 30,000 times in its first week post launch.
The strong interest surrounding their platform opened the door to collaborating with the Government of Quebec in order to improve the data available. By means of this collaboration, the Doctr team was able to include the occupancy rate for all hospitals in the Quebec province, as well as information on private clinics and other organizations providing specialized health services, such as hours of operation and whether or not clinics accept walk-ins. Rather than going to emergency room when one could easily be treated in a clinic, patients have information readily available to find a nearby clinic to get treated. This effort in the hope of reducing the near 60% of emergency room visits which could be handled by a family doctor or a clinic.
Far from wanting to rest on their laurels, the Doctr team sought to push their idea further. They met with doctors and clinic managers to discuss their daily lives, the challenges they face and what most greatly hinders efficiency in their work. A topic frequently mentioned during these chats: the high number of same day appointment cancellations. Doctr looked to develop a new mobile app, called “Doctr Check-In”, which looks to help patients quickly find an appointment by filling time slots which have been cancelled at the last minute by other patients. Again, the team attracted media buzz, in places like MTL Blog and the Montreal Gazette. This new application is currently in its pilot phase in Montreal.
It is obvious that Doctr has not taken the easiest route when it comes to entrepreneurial adventure. When the founders started their project, several entrepreneurs and investors did not miss pointing out they were entering a difficult market. Not only would it be necessary for them to do business with the government, but also in the health sector, which is highly regulated. The governmental machine requires long approval timelines, and contact persons they would address were often not in a position to make decisions themselves.
If the founders could give any piece of advice, it would be for entrepreneurs not to be afraid of seeking the information they need in their entourage. “Make sure you share your ideas. This will help you receive the necessary feedback to improve on your project and surround yourself with a good network of partners.” Indeed, to ensure their success, the Doctr team also surrounded itself with experts by creating an advisory committee. They developed an extensive network of contacts through their involvement in various events, and are thankful for a very competent mentor they obtained through the Futurpreneur Canada program.
They also point out the importance of identifying your priorities. “At the beginning, there are a thousand things to do and just as many areas where you can spend the little money you have.” To reach success, you need to establish priorities to avoid draining your bank account before your first revenues come in. It becomes essential to determine what is absolutely necessary and how to put different priorities in a logical order.
Last but not least, a simple yet vital piece of advice: “Better to live your dreams than to dream your life. If you want to get start a business, do it!”
Written By: Véronic Tremblay, Bilingual Marketing Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada